Thursday, April 18, 2013

A court too far

Some of our contributors and readers have put together a fascinating collection of articles based on research and analysis on various aspects of  access to Supreme Court in the latest cover story of Frontline.    (Readers can access Frontine's refurbished site here.)
Readers may suspect some inconsistency insofar as the lead article by Nick Robinson makes a strong case for the Court to hear less and less regular cases, while Prof. Mohan Gopal argues that the Court suffers from docket exclusion, rather than docket explosion.  As far as I understand it, this inconsistency is more imagined than real.  Nick Robinson wants the Court to hear less and less of cases filed by the rich and the privileged and the cases which are currently disproportionately heard by the court, category-wise, so that it can hear more of the cases, raising substantial questions of law and the Constitution.  Prof. Mohan Gopal, on the other hand, would agree with Nick that  the Court ought to hear more such cases, but would suggest that the answer to the Court's growing distance from the common man lies in democratising the access, by making it easier and affordable. My piece on the Novartis case raises the question whether the verdict could have gone in favour of Novartis, had it been heard by another Bench, pointing to the uncertainty in law that characterises the Court's current functioning. A separate article by me, which is not a part of the cover story, highlights the significance of this landmark judgment.

Prof. Mohan Gopal, for the first time, articulates his dissent over the Judicial Impact Assessment.  Though he was a member of the Task Force, set up by the Government following the Supreme Court's judgment in the Salem Advocates case, he did not sign the report, and had no intention to publicly disagree with it at that time.

The cover story is enriched by articles authored by Abhinav Chandrachud, critiquing the unwritten qualifications for membership on the court, Arghya Sengupta, examining the breakdown of precedent at the Supreme Court, and Sidharth Chauhan, exploring the court's relationship with the media.

The cover story gave me an opportunity to interview the new Solicitor General, Mohan Parasaran, and also benefit from reading Arun Thiruvengadam's excellent chapter on PIL, in the recent book edited by him along with Vikram Raghavan and Sunil Khilnani and reviewed by me elsewhere.
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